On our trip to Denver, Colorado last year, we learnt how the mountain pine beetles are eating away pine forests across North America. This outbreak is ten times bigger than ever. We were saddened to see so many dead grey pine trees. What impact does this have on the local people and on the regional or even the global industry? What effect does it have on you as a tourist? A 2009 report concluded that Canada could have avoided a cost of $165 million annually by preventing the introduction and establishment of four high-profile invasive forest insects and diseases.
The pine beetles thrive in warmer and dryer atmospheres. Think global warming. Researchers are suspecting that global warming induced due to human activities is contributing to this. Add to that helpless drought-stressed trees that are vulnerable to outbreaks. Add to that forest fires.
Is this the survival of the fittest or survival of the luckiest? The beetles are moving, they are invading other regions of the world. If your area has pines, the best way to find out if the epidemic has reached you is to seek experts, because not all beetles behave the same way.
In this short film called Life of Pine made at the International Wildlife Film Festival Filmmaker Labs, shows what we can learn from this. Professor Six is studying the genetics and adaptation of these pine trees to understand how these trees are fighting back. This is just one kind of outbreak. Although outbreaks are, as Professor Six says, ‘a natural disturbance’, the scale observed these days are not normal.
In British Columbia alone, more than 16 million of the 55 million hectares of forest have been affected. Researchers are tracking how a forest that becomes infected by the pine beetle evolves from being a carbon sink to a carbon source, by measuring the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere above beetle-infected forests.
Professor Six says how we are shifting the blame onto these beetles for something that we humans have done. She says the beetle is just an organism that is doing what it does. I’d the say the same for humans, we are doing what we do – we are good at manipulating and using our environment to our needs. However, I do believe that we are doing it wrong. We can do better.
Further watching: An entomologist tells the story of how a little beetle has ecologically and economically altered North America’s forests.
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